Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hello. 2012

The year 2011 has been pretty good for me as far as writing is concerned. And better yet,before the year ends, I receive an email from the editor Jim Kacian of The Red Moon Anthology congratulating me on having my previously published haiku included in the anthology. It is encouraging news and ends my year of 2011 on a high note and at the same time makes me optimistic for 2012.

My writing project for the new year is of two prongs : finishing up my own anthology of haiku, haibun, and tanka about my journey from Vietnam to America and continuing to work on my novel which I think will be completed in 2013.

Here, I wish everyone a happy, peaceful, and productive New Year!

The link to my haibun about my mother : A Hundred Gourds

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Published Haibun for My Mother

In tomorrow's inaugural issue of an online journal, A Hundred Gourds, I have one haiku and one haibun published. I will show them here after they are released. It will be my first haibun that gets published and I am very excited about it. Here I would like to thank the haibun editor Ray Rasmussen for his time and help; without his willingness to work with me together to make it publishable, I would not be able to share my haibun with the readers.

The haibun is about my mother, the most important person in my life. Without her, my life would have been totally different; I would not be writing this blog to share with you my joy, my excitement, my gratitude to having a mother who, uneducated but keenly aware of the importance of education, generously gave me an education not only in one language but in three languages.

I am looking forward to tomorrow to see my haibun written for my mother in publication.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Haiku Writing and Fiction Writing

Having had three haiku published in a journal, with one accepted for publication by another journal in December, I can add one more entry to my writer's resume : a published haiku writer in addition to an award-winning, produced playwright.

Here are the two haiku published in the October issue of Notes from the Gean:

Tientsin pears --
the sweet taste
of my mother's homeland

a reflection
across multiple rivers
my heritage

I started writing haiku in 2007. At that time, my understanding of this Japanese style short poetry was minimal--a haiku being non-conceptual and objective and short. At that time, holding a demanding day job of an interpreter plus working on a different writing project I considered primary, I spent little time reading and studying the others' haiku. However, things changed since last March. After joining the haiku forum, I've learned about its structure--a phrase and a fragment--and have had more time to read and study and write haiku, my poems have greatly improved.

What I've learned from this writing process is the importance of learning the know-how. Once I learned the techniques of effective haiku, I knew how to do it and how to do it right. Like working on any other kinds of writing, it takes time, devotion, passion, perseverance, and hard work. In the past, I had passion for haiku but not devotion.

Friday, September 30, 2011


Like fiction, haiku have subgenres. Urban, shasei, gendai, haiku noir, and politiku, to name a few. I like them all but haven't tried my hand at many of them. Someday I may try, just for the heck of it, to write a couple of haiku noir that require cinematic techniques, a very intriguing subgenre. I have, though, written some politiku and posted them on Facebook. Politiku, as you can see, are haiku about political, social, and economic issues. The current situation provides a fertile ground for politiku.

Here's one of my politiku recently posted on Facebook:

days-old egg rolls
from a restaurant . . .
spending cuts

If you are not a haiku writer, you'll probably don't see the connection between the first two lines and the last line. The dot, dot, dot at the end of line two offers the reader a pause. In this politiku, line three has double meaning. Its one meaning : the government cuts spending and therefore many of the federal and local departments are understaffed. With insufficient manpower, inspectors don't inspect restaurants on a regular basis. Its other meaning: the restaurant owner who minds his/her bottom line also cuts spending and serves customers old food.

Such is the charm and power of haiku--with just three short lines and they can say aplenty.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Haiku Writing and Fiction Writing

The more I learn about haiku and the more I write haiku, the more common ground I find in haiku writing and fiction writing.

Kokoro is important in haiku. What is kokoro? It's Japanese, meaning feeling, heart, spirit. If a haiku lacks kokoro, it's not a good haiku, and I consider it an empty haiku, which may have touched on two or three of the five senses that meet the requirements of a haiku; however, after reading the poem, what is left to me is : So what? The same goes to fiction writing. After I read a novel or a short story that doesn't have kokoro, what is left to me is : So what?

I find it intriguing that all kinds of writing share some common ground in one way or another. Because of the discovery, I believe the more fields a write explores, the more benefits she will receive. People like to say "Think outside the box." Before doing that, we should look outside the box; what is out there are not only baseball fields, but cornfields, and other fields waiting for us to get in and take a look.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Haiku Writing II

Well, I am really into haiku and haibun. I've spent quite a bit of my time every day reading, pondering, and writing the Japanese style poetry. My reward is one of my haiku I submitted to Notes From the Gean was published in this month's issue. The following is my published haiku:

my childhood dreams . . .
steam from the wok

The publication of my haiku--my first one--is a tremendous encouragement, and I am thankful to the editor, Lorin Ford, for including it in Notes From the Gean, Vol. 3, issue #1.

Other than the confidence I've gained in my haiku writing, I've also found that the various techniques for effective haiku can be transferred to fiction writing, which I am also engaged in.

My advice to writers is: explore another field. As I said earlier, a writer is an explorer who dares to venture into the unknown. And the result is rewarding.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Haiku Writing

Suddenly I find myself working on a haiku project which has not been listed for this year's writing plan of mine. Since I joined the Haiku Foundation to workshop my haiku in mid March, I've been reading, studying, and wrting haiku, and haiku writing has become my primary project. Every day I live with a haiku mind that helps sharpen my awareness about my surroundings to which I've already paid attention as a fiction writer and playwright.

I know why I love haiku because it shares some techniques with fiction writing. A good haiku shows but doesn't tell; it requires concrete images that involves our five senses.

Unlike poetry in general, the poet can project his/her thoughts and feelings into the poem, a haiku poet just shows the reader what he/she sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes and puts it down in words and lets the reader interpreter the layers of meaning known as the leap. That is the indispensable ingredient in haiku, and that is why an effective haiku is not easy to write.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Multiple Projects

I am back, I'm not back, as I'm not one hundred percent recovered. I am writing, I'm not writing as I'm revising some pieces of my old work.

Suddenly, I'm happy that I have multiple projects to work on.

When I was writing solely plays, I concentrated on only one script; I'd never started a second project before finishing my first one. At that time, I was happy to be focused. Now, I enjoy working on different projects, which enable me to get some writing done at this stage--still recovering from my serious illness that almost killed me about seven months ago.

My projects are divided into two categories: major and minor. The major one is undoubtedly my novel; the minor one, which can be subdivided into three categories--my play, short stories, and haiku. Focusing on my minor projects, one day I work on my play, another day, on a short story, still another day, on haiku, all depends on how I feel: energetic or tired and sluggish. On a bad day, I'll work on something easier; on a good day, i'll work on something more demanding. Doing so, I don't feel getting stuck. I'm moving forward.

With multiple projects, not only can I enjoy writing but feel satisfied that I can meet some deadlines. For a writer, every submission brings a hope.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Writer's Enemy

A writer's enemy? Who can he be? For me, a writer's enemy is ill health--a hard-to-beat enemy who has deprived me of my energy and endurance. Am I saying I am in poor health? No. But I feel as if I were having poor health while on my way to recovery from my serious illness, which is progressing slowly, so slowly that I want to scream because some days I feel weak, unable to write for just an hour, and, even the other days I feel strong enough to work on my project, I lack stamina to carry on without taking a break.

And, participating in the February's National Haiku Writing Month, composing one haiku each day and reading other participating poets', I have barely sufficient energy left for my other project, feeling as if I were struggling with poor health, which has absolute control over me, like a puppeteer pulling strings alternately behind me, one to make me weak, another to make me strong. Totally at his disposal, I have to reluctantly succumb to his command.

Because of lack of energy, I had to cease updating my blog so I could work on my other project--writing a literary sentence daily--and meet the March 1st deadline for my full-length play, which I joyously did.

Today, with the literary sentence written over the weekend, I can update my blog. Doing so, I succeed in dealing my writer's enemy a blow, not powerful enough to knock him out, but strong enough to send him a message: with good planning and strategy, I can strike back.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It Begins with a Dream

I love figure skating not only as a sport that allows me to enjoy the music at the same time while watching the game but also as a window on artists. Because figure skaters' total scores consist of artistry and techniques, I consider them artists like writers. And I like one of the TV commercials during the break: "It begins with a dream and a pair of skates," says the voice-over as a pair of legs on skates appear. Then off the dreamer goes.

Yes, it begins with a dream.

My passion to express myself in words became a dream when I was a teenager in Vietnam, where there was no chance at all for me to fulfil that dream, being a Chinese Vietnamese who read books published in either Hong Kong or Taiwan; publishers in South Vietnam printed books written in only Vietnamese, a language I learned at school but was not proficient. My dream of being a writer was not only deferred but impossible. To avoid being ridiculed, I never told anyone about my dream, not even my mother, nor my good friends back there and then.

I held on to my dream.

Eventually, I saw my dream possible once I resettled in America, a great country that gives people a chance as well as a second chance at chasing their dreams if they have one. Having watched figure skating for years, I've seen athletes/artists, who, after trying for a while without going anywhere, some give up; others keep trying and keep improving their artistry and techniques and finally, they see their dreams come true.

The US man and woman champions of 2011 did, at one point, thinking of quitting, but decided to stay in the games. The woman, a one-time champion, failed to defend her title last year and didn't do well in the other competitions, was on the verge of being written off as a viable competitor; the man, having skated for ten years, was on the podium only once. Not giving up, they both won. And, before another woman skater started her long program, her coach told her, "Believe in yourself." What encouraging words! She became the bronze medalist.

I believe in myself and I am determined.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Shared Experience

I came across a quote about writing by Winston Churchill. He said, "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant." Immediately I agreed, "Yes! That is how I felt, too! Having an adventure as my relationship with the book I work on changes from time to time, from being simply delightful like a child playing with a new toy to getting more intimate and more serious." I know Churchill was talking about writing nonfiction, and I was thinking of fiction. Despite two different genres, he and I shared the writing process.

When I got an inspiration for my novel, I toyed with the idea and was delighted and started writing a book of fiction--my adventure--and of course doing it with amusement. When I finished several rewrites, and the novel began to take shape, I fell in love with it--the stage of its becoming a mistress, the way Churchill put it. Now that I'm recovering from my serious illness but still lack stamina to handle a long work that demands lots of my attention and energy, I reluctantly stall my beloved project and work on a couple of small pieces of writing that I can manage at the moment. My novel, although out of my sight, is absolutely not out of my mind. Just the opposite. I think of it every so often and jot down all the ideas that flash across my head. And, like a man who momentarily being out of touch with his mistress, I miss the writing of my novel, which I plan on revising later this year when I am 100% back.

When I rework on my beloved project, I think my writing adventure will reach the final two stages: my novel will become a master, and then a tyrant. After living in Communist rule in South Vietnam for ten years, I know tyranny, and I know I can handle the figurative tyrant.